What is Influenza (also called Flu)?
The flu is a contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
This year’s flu season started early, is widespread, and is expected to last through early April 2018. Experts describe this as a “moderately severe” flu season compared with other recent seasons.
Is Flu vaccine effective?
Yes! Don’t believe the hype that the vaccine does not matter this year. The vaccine is about 30% effective against the most common type of flu circulating right now in the US (and this is typical for Flu vaccines). It may be even more effective against other types of flu viruses that will circulate later this season. Protection begins about 2 weeks after the vaccine has been given. So it’s not too late to play it safe and vaccinate.
Flu vaccine keeps you, your family and community safe. Even if the vaccine does not prevent the illness entirely, it reduces the severity and duration of symptoms. A protected person is also less likely to spread the illness to others. This much is clear: Some protection is far better than no protection at all.
Signs and Symptoms of Flu
Flu symptoms usually start suddenly and include:
How Flu Spreads
Flu viruses spread by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. Less often, a person could also get flu by contact with a contaminated surface or object, then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Typically, a person becomes ill about 2 days after being exposed to the germ.
Period of Contagiousness
You can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. A person is most contagious in the first 3-4 days after the illness begins and for up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. The contagious period for young children may be even longer.
Preventing Seasonal Flu in Schools
The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Practical, everyday actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing) also help slow the spread of the flu virus. Sick students should stay home until their fever has been resolved for 24 hours (without the use of fever reducers like Tylenol or ibuprofen). No letter is required to return to school.
A flu virus is very fragile and lives only 2-8 hours on surfaces. Standard cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces are helpful to kill or remove them to prevent spread of the germ. However, cleaning all surfaces in a school is impossible. If the virus is present in community, it will also always be present in schools. Closing a school is rarely if ever an effective measure to prevent spread of the flu virus and is not helpful according to public health experts.
People at High Risk from Flu
Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes young children, pregnant women, people over 65, and those of any age who are “medically fragile” or have chronic medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or immune deficiencies).
Complications of Flu
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
There are influenza antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. These are by prescription only. Their effectiveness is greatest if started within the first 48 hours of the illness. Please follow up with a doctor right away if you think your child has the flu.
For more information see: www.flu.gov or contact the Office of Student Health & Wellness (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Get a Flu Shot at CDPH Fast-Track Immunization clinics.
Flu Clinic Finder: www.ChicagoFluShots.org
CPS Letter Re: The Flu